Breaking the Norm of Exceptionalism


A quite common opinion is that the Arctic region should be limited only to the eight Arctic States. However, this tendency changes with an ongoing Russian effort as the country leads easternization in the region.

In general, the Russian approach to foreign policy follows the ideas of Evgeny Primakov - a ‘multivectoral’ approach to cooperation. That allows the country to change the perception of the Arctic with the multipolar picture of international relations at hand.

One vivid example of surpassing the Arctic exceptionalism and multipolarity in the Arctic is cooperation with India in the region. As the most recent sign comes the joint memorandum, but there are deeper reasons that Indians provide for the interest in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

First of all, there is a historic reasoning. Scholars refer to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the researcher of Vedas, who wrote a book The Arctic Home in the Vedas in 1903. According to him, Aryans were natively an Arctic people, during the pre-glacial period.

This idea was rather popular back in the days, at the time of its publication, but seemingly attracts interest in India to this date.

The Himalayas
Photo: Ben Lowe

Modern Indian researchers often point to the fact that Himalayas are considered the third pole of the world. Hence, the interest in the Arctic and Antarctic. Thorough research requires wholesome knowledge of all poles.

The main motivation for studying the Himalayas, the Arctic and Antarctic lies in the fact that India is affected by climate change in the Arctic. Monsoons, subsequent rise of temperature and sea-levels threaten the well-being and the economy of the country.

A great indicator of India’s eagerness for expanding research in the Polar regions is India’s recent interest in obtaining polar research vessels (PRVs) and the proposition to construct Russian vessels on Indian shipyards.

The Arctic region and the Antarctic gain such significance that might define the development of the whole world. Another idea that has been revitalised is the theory of frontiers to which Russian researchers refer more and more often. As Alexander Pilyasov, Doctor of Geography, and Nadezhda Zamyatina, PhD of Geography, put it, after Joseph Schumpeter’s theories, frontier is “a creative destruction with the creation of a revolutionary new” which defines a constant search for innovations and use of the highest technologies available when it comes to the development of the North.

In a sense, that can be applied to the misplaced public image of the “Western” Arctic. Just as the American Frontier defined the unique path of the US’ development in world history, according to the original thesis by Frederick Turner, the Arctic and Antarctic might as well be the last unexplored territory that will define the development of the future world.

The Editorial Board of the Arctic Century